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Stratford's New Superintendent 'Excited' to Begin

Newtown Superintendent Janet Robinson gets the official appointment for the Stratford job.

The interview process for Stratford's next superintendent progressed and Janet Robinson became increasingly attracted to the district.

"The priorities are kids and how kids are achieving," Robinson, the current Newtown superintendent who will take the helm in Stratford July 1, said after the Board of Education Wednesday officially approved her appointment.

Chairman Gavin Forrester said Robinson -- who was the top recommendation for the job before the Dec. 14 school shooting at Sandy Hook -- will receive a three-year contract with an annual compensation totaling $210,000, which is "toward the bottom" when compared with what other districts in Fairfield County pay their head of schools.

Former Stratford Superintendent Irene Cornish -- who retired at the end of 2012 after nine years at the post -- took home a total of $191,000 in 2012. Last February, when the search for the next superintendent began, a Stratford Patch poll found that 81 percent of readers believed "$200,000 is competitive enough to attract a qualified superintendent."

"We got a fair contract," said Forrester, adding that he commends Robinson for her ambition to lead a district with about 1,700 more students than Newtown. "It shows her willingness to prove what she can do."

And what's more, she's on Twitter and uses the social media site to communicate with her district, he said.

More than 20 candidates submitted resumes to the Superintendent Search Committee which conducted four rounds of interviews and "extensive" reference checks, according to Forrester. Robinson said she got the first callback from the committee in October.

"Through this process, Dr. Robinson rose to the top of a very competitive group," Forrester wrote in a letter to the community earlier this week.

Robinson has been the head of Newtown schools since 2008. Her tenure has seen both national praise and controversy, especially since the Dec. 14 shooting. She testified in Washington, DC, recently received the Peace Islands Educator of the Year award, and will be honored as Superintendent of the Year by the University of Connecticut in March.

But she faced criticism at home from board members for her remarks on two Newtown elementary school choirs, and faced other contentious issues in the years before the shooting, including a long debate over bus contracts. In the summer, her contract was extended by two years rather than the standard three.

On Wednesday, Robinson said she's excited to get going in Stratford, a school district she is not entirely unfamiliar with. She said as deputy executive director at Cooperative Educational Services in Trumbull from 1997 to 2002, she worked with Stratford educators and was impressed with how technology was being used in schools.

"They were always in the forefront," said Robinson, adding that she plans to keep technology a priority in the district.

Interim Superintendent Margaret Lasek will continue to serve in that position until Robinson officially comes on as superintendent on July 1.

Patricia Clark Sperling February 28, 2013 at 07:08 PM
Interestingly, Gavin isn't lying - it is "toward the bottom" when compared with other Fairfield County districts; however, what he did not say is that those Fairfield County districts rank in the top 10 wealthiest in Fairfield County. Stratford ranks #22 in the wealth department, followed by Bridgeport. So, if you want a fair comparison, and a fair salary, you're got to look at that too.
Baffled Resident February 28, 2013 at 07:35 PM
Patti- If you're saying that Stratford should be more in line with Bridgeport in how they compensate their superintendent, you might be in for a surprise. Paul Vallas is earning.........wait for it............. $234K this year!
Patricia Clark Sperling February 28, 2013 at 07:44 PM
No Baffled, that's not what I am saying and I was already aware of what Bridgeport's superintendent was making. Fairfield County superintendent salaries are in the Top 20 according to an article published in the New Haven Register on 12/28/12. What I AM saying is that we should not be using comparisons in Fairfield County for the wealthiest communities when we are not even close to that category, but we are TAXED and our administration SPENDS as if we were! Bridgeport ranks #24 on the in terms of median income (and is the highest taxed city/town in Connecticut), Stratford ranks #22. If I could post the spreadsheet I prepared, I would.
Baffled Resident February 28, 2013 at 07:58 PM
I understand that Patti. That's why i pointed out that Milford, directly east of Stratford, but in New Haven County is paying $203K. Are you saying that Stratford has a lower COL index than Milford, and should therefore compensate at a lower rate than Milford? By all accounts, Stratford would appear to have a fractionally higher COL than Milford. So in my eyes, that 210K offered by the BOE appears to be a well researched offer given what the market bears for the position.
Tommy MacKay March 01, 2013 at 07:02 AM
Welcome Janet Robinson!! The eyes of the national media, town parents , and town residents are upon you. I hope $210,000.00 makes the scrutiny you are about to receive worth it! Get ready for the most exciting first year of your last three first years!!!
Mike Reynolds March 01, 2013 at 12:42 PM
After what she went through just in the last few months I wonder how the treatment she is about to receive from all of Stratford's education experts will compare.
Patricia Clark Sperling March 01, 2013 at 03:38 PM
Honestly, I don’t see use of the COL Index as practical. Stratford just can’t afford to continue paying the salaries it does for its administration. The burden has been and continues to be on the taxpayers and our mill rate continues to rise to meet these promises. In justifying this, the “powers that be” say it’s in line with what other Fairfield County towns/cities are paying. We can’t compare Stratford to those other towns/cities – whether they be inside or outside of Fairfield County. We have very little in Stratford and it is resident taxpayers who continue to support this Town. This Town hasn’t grown economically in decades. We just are not in the same ballpark as those other Towns, not even Milford. It just isn’t a practical guideline in our current economy. When the Town Council kicks back the budget that the BOE has approved, what cuts are going to be made? It’s never cut off the top-heavy area, it’s always in the heart. Our children suffer, not the biggies at the top. I wish Janet Robinson good luck. I pray that she does not undo the repair to the morale that Margaret Lasek has done in just the two months she’s been the interim superintendent. I think some of the worker bees are actually happy to come to work these days! It really would be a kick in the teeth to the hardworking BOE staff (the worker bees, not the lizard bosses).
David March 01, 2013 at 04:21 PM
Let's be nice. Give her a chance. I am not happy about the salary, but it's not her fault. AT ALL.
Patricia Clark Sperling March 01, 2013 at 05:25 PM
David ~ Sure, she deserves a chance, but she should know what the climate was before she walks in the door. I certainly hope she is nothing like Irene Cornish and Irene's now-retired executive assistant! The two of them brought the morale of East Broadway down immensely. I have heard AMAZING things about the interim superintendent since a couple days after she started. My only hope is that Janet Robinson does not unravel the good that has been done to the morale in just two months. I do hope that Dr. Robinson goes through the spending at the BOE with a fine tooth comb. There have been far too many mistakes made - e.g., the whole ConnectiCare insurance debacle started about 5 years ago. And to Mike ~ I certainly wouldn't call our BOE Board "education experts" either. They are elected politicians, just like the Town Council...... rarely do you find one that does the right thing, stays true to who they are and doesn't get used to the taste of the kool-aid.
Mike Reynolds March 01, 2013 at 06:17 PM
Patti, You missed the sarcasm there. I'm not referring to the BOE as our "education experts". I'm referring to the many commenters here who feel they are experts in this area.
ln123 March 01, 2013 at 06:30 PM
Geesh....Pontification abound...Give the woman a chance before bashing her! How would all of you like it if your salary was fodder for the media?
Patricia Clark Sperling March 01, 2013 at 07:18 PM
No Mike ~ I didn't miss the sarcasm, and what I am saying as that our elected board are not experts at all either, they're just like the Town Council, they are politicians who make promises of doing the right things, but rarely do. But, I'm not an expert either, it's just my (humble) opinion.
Patricia Clark Sperling March 01, 2013 at 07:20 PM
In123 ~ the point is that it's just too darn much money for the financial condition of Stratford right now, and the condition of our economy. The places were are compared to for this salary have lots more going on - Stratford is and has been behind the 8-ball for decades, yet it pays salaries as if were a bustling part of the gold coast!
Imaskier March 03, 2013 at 02:32 AM
Patti...I would be curious to know what significant increase in moral you are referring to. The increased moral I know of is at SHS directly and that increase is due, almost entirely, to the fact that Mrs. Lasek has left SHS. I know this from first hand experience!
Baffled Resident March 03, 2013 at 02:38 AM
From what capacity at SHS are you speaking from? Student? Staff? Instructor?
Imaskier March 03, 2013 at 01:55 PM
I don't think it really matters in what capacity. The moral increase has been seen and voiced by many of all three groups at SHS. I have not heard anybody who has said that things are worse since she has left. I would add also that among my friends and co-workers at other school I have not heard of many, in fact very few, that are glad that Mrs. Cornish is gone. The transition between the two, at the top any way, has been virtually transparent. This may not be the perception of residents that have only occasional interaction with all involved.
Baffled Resident March 03, 2013 at 01:58 PM
It matters if you're a teacher. It's morale, not moral..................
Imaskier March 03, 2013 at 02:09 PM
So obviously I am NOT a keyboarding teacher nor am I an English teacher...now that we have cleared up the REALLY critical things! Perhaps you will spend a little bit of your time with something more important than my typing/spelling skills and focus on why it is important which group I am in. Do you not agree that MORALE (is that better now...does my grade go up now?) is seen by all within the school?
Baffled Resident March 03, 2013 at 02:21 PM
The importance of which "group" you are in is relevant. Parents and taxpayers could care less if the custodians/secretaries/etc. are getting a morale boost without Lasek. It's the teacher's morale that is important.
Imaskier March 03, 2013 at 02:37 PM
And as I said "The moral increase has been seen and voiced by many of all three groups at SHS" To answer your question more directly I would say that the VAST majority of teachers are glad that she is gone and her successor, Mr Joseph Corso, has been embraced wholeheartedly. Didn't you hear the sigh of relief from the staff when she left, I thought it could be heard town-wide!
Patricia Clark Sperling March 03, 2013 at 02:56 PM
lmaskier ~ I have taked to teachers and other employees of the BOE. The BOE building has had an amazing morale revival in just two months. Dr. Cornish and her Executive Assistant left and people are breathing again on East Broadway. I can give you examples of how they were beaten down, but I'll keep that to myself. All I know is that compared to the two individuals that left in December, Margaret Lasek has been a ray of sunshine. My only hope is that Dr. Robinson is as much of a people person as is needed. I also know people who have children in SHS and they had no problem and were very happy with Margaret Lasek at SHS.
Patricia Clark Sperling March 03, 2013 at 03:05 PM
So Baffled ~ the only people that matter are the teachers? I think all employees in the BOE from the teachers (who educate our children) secretaries (who deal with the parents), to the custodians (who do everything from clean our kids puke, to make sure our schools are running) are very important. It's the morale of ALL that is important. Treat your employees like crap, you get crap; treat them with respect, you'll be respect and better work product back.
CHOICES CONSEQUENCES March 04, 2013 at 05:33 AM
Imaskier your are so right. SHS teachers young and old are rejoicing at Lasek's departure from SHS and the district. One comment above credits Lasek with boosting morale in just two months. The morale boost came from everyone knowing that she had moved one step closer to gone for good. As principal, she destroyed the morale at SHS as evidenced by the recent NEASC School Climate Survey that rated SHS somewhere on the low 20's under her administration. Instead of supporting and mentoring teachers she followed Cornish's lead and managed by fear and intimidation. Many excellent teachers who were also state certified to be administrators were targeted and harassed by Lasek with the full support of Cornish and a Board that had no clue. Former Superintendent Ray O'Connell's letter to the Connecticut Post shortly after Hurricane Irene accurately chronicled the damage to the morale of district personnel since the arrival of Cornish. If not for his high professional and personal standards and restraint, he could have caused such outrage by exposing actions and behaviors of Cornish and her minions that the Board would have had no choice but to immediately demand the resignations of Cornish and Lasek, followed by other administrators who were undeniably complicit in carrying out unprofessional and unethical schemes that caused the Stratford School District to lose numerous exceptional educators and support staff.
CHOICES CONSEQUENCES March 04, 2013 at 05:34 AM
All the while, the teacher's union, the Stratford Education Association, collected dues from all of the teachers, but took no action whatsoever to protect or effectively represent their members who wrongfully found themselves under siege.
Jon Doe March 04, 2013 at 06:14 AM
All this negativity....unbelievable. Who would want to walk into this.
David March 04, 2013 at 09:50 AM
I'd like to welcome Ms. Janet Robinson. I hope she can raise the quality of education in Stratford. Please take the Patch noise in stride.
Had Enough March 05, 2013 at 02:26 AM
Thanks for your good wishes Hector. And best of luck on your new car!
Concerned Person December 25, 2013 at 07:53 AM
.
CHOICES CONSEQUENCES December 27, 2013 at 02:55 AM
Stratford should buy Lasek a large broom for transportation out of this district. She is a Cornish clone, and if Dr. Robinson allows Lasek to remain on the payroll, it will send a clear message that she has no clue as to how badly Lasek ruined SHS before being promoted. Lasek must go or Dr. Robinson will be regarded as no better than Cornish. GOD HELP US ALL!
CHOICES CONSEQUENCES December 27, 2013 at 03:20 AM
Patricia.....Margaret Lasek has never been a ray of sunshine. She is evil to the core. I am thankful that I am young enough that I can look forward to someday enjoying reading her obituary, as will many others who know the depth of her depravity.

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